September 28, 2006

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The Guardian (PG-13)
The Coast Guard gets the world’s longest recruitment commercial in the form of The Guardian, a wind-filled undertaking about the glory of a life spent saving those lost at sea.

Don’t get me wrong — if I’m lost at sea, I’d like the Coast Guard to come rescue me. I hope they’ll take as a compliment both that I think their uniforms are quite fetching and that I sat though all two hours and 15 minutes of this never-ending sea dirge.

This is the tale of two men — one young, one old. One Kevin Costner, one Ashton Kutcher. One age-appropriate for Demi Moore, one actually married to her.

Both, however, do not inspire a lot of confidence, actor-wise.

So how perfect that they then essentially share a role?

Costner is Ben Randall, an older man who loses first his wife (after years of neglect) and then his nerve (after an accident that kills his team), all in service of the Coast Guard. His superiors send him to teach diving to a bunch of Coast Guard guppies who believe they want to spend their careers saving lives but haven’t been tested yet.

Technically, Kutcher plays a character named Jake Fischer. But Jake is really just a younger reflection of Ben. Jake has a dalliance with a townie girl while he’s in driving school but, like Ben, we don’t believe Jake has what it takes to be a long-term guy. Jake, like Ben, is also cocky and sure of himself and absolutely driven to be the best.

Gee, will these fellas clash?

If you’ve seen one I-push-you-because-I-believe-in-you training montage, you’ve certainly seen this one, as not a single inventive step is taken along the path of this tale. Both men, we soon learn, have issues to overcome before they can really be worthwhile at sea and worthwhile at home to the women they love. There isn’t a new-country slow ballad about “bein’ a better man” that doesn’t cover most of this territory.

On the very outer edge of this film are interesting nuggets — visuals (the Alaskan coastline) and factoids about Coast Guard life that aren’t big enough to even be called subplots but that suggest somewhere in the creation of this film there was some actual interesting information involved. There are few movies out there about the Coast Guard; one that actually portrayed their jobs, their lives could be really intriguing. Too bad they let these few little chunks of promise float away. C-

— Amy Diaz


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